These 4 New Year's Resolutions Are Tough -- but They Could Save You Thousands

Blocks reading "New Start, New Year."

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2021 represents a fresh start, no matter where you stand today.

As Americans watch 2020 fade from the rearview mirror, 2021 holds a measure of promise. Whether you're into making an official New Year's resolution or have general goals you'd like to accomplish, 2021 is a clean slate.

If you haven't settled on a resolution yet, here are four options. They may be tough, but they're sure to save you money.

1. Wait and save

You go to work and give it all you've got. Days off are filled with errands and tasks around the house. It can be a grind. And that's why it's so easy for us to reward ourselves, whether we have the money to do so or not. Say you have the opportunity to buy a cabin at a great price. Your budget is already tight, but you tell yourself that you "deserve" a getaway.

You do deserve a getaway. The problem is, overextending yourself to buy a cabin (or take a vacation to an exotic locale, buy season tickets to your favorite sports team, or splurge on a new boat) will only make you feel great for a day or two. Once the weight of the new debt sinks in, the pleasure evaporates.

Until you have enough in the bank for those luxury items, why not reward yourself in other ways? Go out for a nice dinner (after restaurants are once again safe), spend a weekend at a beautiful resort, or take a drive through the most scenic part of your state. In other words, gift yourself with experiences you can afford. That way, you can take well-deserved breaks without the worry of new debt.

2. Slay debt

If your friends and neighbors appear to have endless sums of money, it's probably not really the case. According to research conducted by The Ascent, Americans owed a total of $893 billion in credit card debt in the first quarter of 2020. That's credit card debt alone. It doesn't include how much we owe on mortgages, personal loans, auto loans, or other financial obligations. In short, a lot of Americans are in deep. Many of those living in fancy houses, driving state-of-the-art vehicles, and sending their kids to the best private schools are spinning their wheels making interest payments on one debt after another.

Here's what happens when your life is financed by debt:

  • You risk the chance to build a healthy savings account, including an emergency fund to carry you through economic downturns.
  • You miss out on the opportunity to invest in your future, which may come back to haunt you.
  • Debt chips away at your sense of well-being, causing unnecessary anxiety.

If debt is creeping into your budget, choose a payoff plan that fits your style and use it until you've retaken control.

3. Say "no"

When you're the "responsible" member of your family or group of friends, you may be the person others come to when they need to be bailed out of a financial mess. One of the most difficult things for many of us to say is the word "no." Here's the hard truth though: Each time you bail someone out of a mess of their own making, you rob them of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. When you give your money to someone who is mentally and physically capable of finding their own solutions, you steal from yourself. There's no way to minimize how tough it is to say no for the first time, but denying someone your hard-earned money may be one of the kindest things you can do.

4. Don't look back

Beating yourself up over past money mistakes serves no purpose. The coolest part about recognizing mistakes is that you have a chance to learn from them and to come up with a new, better way to do things. Mistakes breed wisdom.

As we move into 2021, resolve to let go of the past. It's what you do from this day forward that matters. This is your year.

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